Explore the hidden treasures that Rajasthan has to offer. Click the images to find out additional info.
Built in 1156 by the Indian King Rawal Jaisal, the fort is on a site that legend says he chose on the advice of a wise local hermit. In the Indian epic poem the Mahabharata, the mystic tells Jaisal that the Hindu deity Lord Krishna had praised the spot—and therefore, a fort built there would be almost invisible to the king's enemies. Indeed, from 30 miles away, visitors see only a sheer golden cliff, rising nearly 25 stories from the desert floor. The walls, of rich yellow sandstone unique to Rajasthan's quarries, shimmer like a mirage.
Jaisalmer was once home to the Rajputs—a tribe of warriors and traders who, for centuries, prospered by levying taxes on the merchants who wound between Egypt, Persia and India. Prone to warring not only against outsiders but among themselves, the Rajputs built a network of intricate fortresses to defend themselves and their accumulated wealth.
The fort's main gate, 60 feet tall and carved from Indian rosewood, has a crack that, according to legend, appeared when a Hindu saint crossed the threshold. Three concentric rings of sandstone walls open onto homes, stables and palaces that once housed Rajput kings. In contrast to the plain walls, these bear elaborate designs. Carvings of chariot wheels, fruit and flowers emerge from soft marble. Scalloped archways guard the walkways between buildings. Ornamented screens shade royal apartments.
"Rajput forts were not easy to build," says Vikramaditya Prakash, an architecture professor at the University of Washington. "The palaces and temples are filigreed in unbelievable detail." Although it has been generations since any Rajput kings ruled here, Jaisalmer Fort still houses some 2,000 residents, which makes it India's last "living fort." (India's other famous forts are abandoned, except for tourist guides.) This too, draws visitors to Jaisalmer.
Desert Festival (January - February)
Once a year in the middle of winter the empty sands around Jaisalmer come alive with the brilliant color, music and laughter of the Desert Festival. The festival is organised by the tourist authorities as tourist entertainment around January-February.
The very rich and colourful Rajasthani folk culture is on show here for a few days every year. Rajasthani men and tall beautiful women dressed in their brightly colored costumes dance and sing ballads of valour, romance and tragedy. Traditional musicians attempt to outdo each other in their musical superiority.
The high points of the festival are - snake charmers, puppeteers, acrobats, and folk performers. Camels, the lifeline of the desert play a foremost role. Proud moustached villagers, dressed in their ethnic best come astride their picturesquely caparisoned camels to join in the camel dances and competitions of camel acrobatics, camel races and décor, camel polo, tug of war and the like.
The tourist dances, turban tying competitions and tug of war are big draws and laughter. The Mr. Desert competitions, which are focused around the length of moustaches by and large, attract many hopefuls.
Gadi Sagar Lake
This tank, south of the city walls, once held the town water supply, and befitting its importance in providing precious water to the inhabitants of this arid city, it is surrounded by small temples and shrines. The beautiful yellow sandstone gateway arching across the road down to the tank is the Tilon-ki-Pol, and is said to have been built by a famous prostitute, Tilon . When she offered to pay to have this gateway constructed, the Maharaja refused permission for it to go down to the tank as he felt that this would be beneath his dignity. While he was away, she built the gate adding a Krishna temple on top so that king could not tear it down.
Salim Singh Ki Haveli
This haveli was built about 300 years ago and a part of it is still occupied. Salim Singh was the prime minister when Jaisalmer was the capital of the princely state and his mansion has a beautifully arched roof with superb carved brackets in the form of Peacocks. The mansion is just below the hill and it is said that once it had two additional wooden storeys in an attempt to make it as high as the maharaja's palace, but the maharaja had the upper storey torn down.
This is one of the largest, and most elaborate Haveli in Jaisalmer. It is five stories high and is extensively carved. It is divided into six apartments, two owned by the Archaeological Survey of India, two by families who operate craft-shops and two private homes. There are remnants of paintings on some of the inside walls as well as some mirror work.
The most elaborate and magnificent of all the Jaisalmer havelis. It has exquisitely carved pillars and extensive corridors and chambers. One of the apartments of this five story high haveli is painted with beautiful murals.
The delicate pagoda like Tazia Tower rises from Badal Mahal (Cloud Palace). Rising in its five-tiered splendour, with each story graced by a delicately carved balcony, the tower is of historical significance. Muslim craftsmen built it in the shape of a Tazia and gifted it to their royal patron.
The golden hued fort is a sentinel to the bleak desert landscape from its 80 meter high perch on the hill, housing the entire township within its ramparts. It has an enchanting cob-web of narrow lanes dotted with some lovely havelis, three beautiful sculptured Jain temples of the 12th-15th century A.D. and five interconnected palaces.
Just 17 kms from Jaisalmer and a kilometre away from the Barmer Road are fossilised remains of 180 million-year-old forests. These are beautiful forest vistas, and any forester can show you around.
The Desert National Park is an excellent example of the ecosystem of the Thar Desert and its rich fauna. The Sudashri forest post is the most ideal place for observing wildlife in the Desert National Park. Sand dunes form less than 20 percent of the Park, which consists mainly of craggy rocks, pavements and compact salt lake bottoms, intermedial areas and fixed dunes.
Its inhabitants include the blackbuck, chinkara, wolf, Indian fox, desert fox, hare and desert cat. Flights of sandgrouse start coming to waterholes from sunrise onwards. One can also hear the morning call of the grey partridge. Blue tailed and green bee-eaters, drongos, common and bush quail and Indian rollers are birds which are commonly found around the waterholes. The park is also home to the great Indian Bustard which is in peril of extinction.